Once upon a time, an author wrote a scene about a girl and a horse. There was only one problem: the author hadn’t been around a horse in over fifteen years. So at critique group, the author’s friends cringed at the awkward, inaccurate passages of horse-riding.
Alright, I admit it! I am that author. I wrote a chapter where my protagonist—a headstrong girl who is extremely afraid of horses—rides off into the forest only to be stopped by two handsome teenagers from the boys camp. It was an idea, exciting in some parts, although premature in the plot.
Even though that scene was scrapped, one thing was clear: I really needed to get on a horse again. Luckily, I am related to half of Mesa and have generous horse-owning cousins (Milo and Julie LeBaron) who let me ride.
Of course, I dragged Kate and Rachel along. As research. Purely research. No fun here—ahem.
When the last shimmer of sunlight died in the west, a crisp chill settled in the air. My companions and I donned winter coats. Kate brought her gloves. With bright eyes, we embarked on our journey of enlightenment. The acrid smell of horse manure wafted across the meadow, beckoning us inward. (The gagging in the background is Rachel. Kate is willing to take this description further by personifying the horse feces—she has been vetoed.)
Milo LeBaron III stood a few inches taller than me. With twinkling eyes and sharp wit, he showed us how to saddle a horse, teaching to us to watch where the creature placed its ears. Not long after his instruction, his wife Julie joined us, a capable and intelligent woman with a graceful air and warm smile.
In all honesty, I should have taken notes, because I didn’t retain many technical terms. However, I can now write about the feeling of swinging my leg over the saddle. I can recount the jostling of a trot. And the leap of faith it takes to squeeze my thighs and get the beautiful animal to lope.
True to who we are, Kate, Rachel, and I all had different approaches to the experience.
Kate’s internal narrative from my perspective: “I shall sit daintily upon this beautiful creature and allow it to take me where it wishes. It seeks to traverse the meadow back to the stables now? I would allow the magnificent beast its freedom, but alas, it is Rachel’s turn.”
Don’t ask me why I perceive her thoughts with an English accent.
So Rachel’s narrative seemed more like this: “I think I’ll get up and gallop this horse effortlessly—like the hardcore woman I am—and let my hair flutter in the night breeze like a stinkin’ model.”
Me: “Careful Jill, they smell fear. One buck and you’re dead.”—Okay not really, but close.
Shout out to Milo and Julie. The first piece of advice Milo gave us was: “Any horse can kill you.” Ha ha. That calmed me right down—nope. The instruction he gave about getting up and directing the horse was perfect. Julie had priceless insight about the relationships between horse and rider.
- Saddles can be heavy.
- If a horse’s ears go all the way back, it’s a bad thing.
- Loping is way more comfortable than trotting.
- Tight-fitting jeans make it hard to lift your leg high enough to get your foot in the stirrup. Don’t wear them—unless you want to look silly.
- Rachel makes anything look sexy.
- Kate doesn’t spook easily. And she loves animals.
- Riding horses is so much fun. My character is crazy to be afraid of it.
The horse recognized me as a pushover. I mostly let him do his own thing, except when Julie told me to stop spoiling him. (And he all but ignored me even then, but who could hold that against such a nice, pretty boy?) Many thanks to the LeBarons for a fun, instructive outing!
Sexy..? No. I felt like a smiling idiot bouncing up and down uncontrollably, and trying to direct a strong animal that just wanted to go back to his stall and eat (I couldn’t blame him–the oats and hay did look amazing). But this evening was wonderful and I had so much fun! Milo and Julie were so kind to allow us to have such a fantastic experience.